The JFNA of today is one hot mess characterized by a somnolent lay leadership and a CEO who just is not up to the job and who proves it every day. As one Commentator recently observed:
"CEO's are supposed to lead their organizations and to work in partnership with the lay leaders. When the CEO doesn't lead, no one follows. And very few CEO's will have any accomplishments independent of the lay leadership that he/she leads. It's that simple."It's that simple. Except, in the case of JFNA, the CEO has proved that he just can't lead; he is his eighth year of proving his inability to do so. And the JFNA lay ;leadership just look the other way.
When Silverman's contract was renewed during the last year of the Siegal terms, the only possible justification (and in this writer's view, remember, there was none) was that Siegal and those lay persons with whom he consulted were somehow convinced that Jerry had spent his first five years in office positioning JFNA for a transformational turnaround and, therefore, they must have rationalized, he was the one to lead JFNA through transformational change during an extended contract term. (Oh, yeah, he is also a "nice guy," whatever that has to do with it. So there was that.) That reasoning was as preposterous then as now.
And, now, well into his extended contract, there has been no change from the first five wasted years...no change at all. If Jerry Silverman's promise to Michael Siegal and Richard Sandler was "change," there is not one iota of evidence that he has delivered any or that he is capable of doing so. Anyone who believes otherwise is living in some sort of their own post-truth world.
As the Commentator above suggested, the JFNA CEO doesn't lead -- in my opinion he has proved over 7+ years that he is incapable of leading. In all of my roles in organized Jewish life, from my own community, to CJF, the NCESJ, UJA, the UJA-CJF partnership, to UIA within JFNA, I was blessed with the strongest of professional partners. The successes we experienced together, the successes we led, arose out of a partnership of equals. I learned so much from every one of the professionals with whom I worked, with whom I partnered. No one can say that that is the case today.
And it seems clear that not one lay leader has challenged Silverman to produce...anything. They have, instead, thrown money at him while cutting his organizational responsibilities in half, or more. He has received close to or more than $5 million in aggregate compensation for what exactly, you ask? Well, for continuing programs initiated by UJA and CJF including the great success of JFNA-Washington; he allowed JFNA to almost totally abandon FRD and community Consulting; terminated JFNA professional placement services; initiated the costly, wasteful and unproductive inanities of TribeFests and #ish and FedWorld; he confused repackaging effort after effort adding "Fed" as a prefix to old wine in new bottles such as FedOvation, FedCentral, FedEngagement, FedWorld, FedNarishkeit with actual change; and on and on. And no one says "enough."
Well, we have and we do so again.
Some of you have asked: "Who might succeed Jerry Silverman as CEO." One could look around: there's David Fisher, past Federation President, JFNA leader, a National Campaign Chair of incredible integrity, and, most recently a most successful President and CEO of Birthright. David would be perfect. Or, you might wish to consider an Interim CEO engaging an experienced federation leader for two years -- perhaps a recently retired leader like Max Kleinman, perhaps JFNA's strongest cheerleader during his era as CEO of MetroWest. Max, now a JFNA Consultant (who isn't at this point?), has seen JFNA from the inside; I would intuit that Max would know how to right the ship. I can think of three professionals at WorldORT, each of whom has experienced leading a community with creativity and success. Or a Larry Fine, the recently retired CEO of the Rochester Federation, which he led with distinction for decades. Or John Ruskay, so well known to all of us: could John be lured back for a defined and limited contractual period with a mandate to effect change. Or, perhaps, the full weight of JFNA leadership could be brought to bear to finally induce Miami's Jacob Solomon to take the job -- certainly Jacob has seen the total deterioration of JFNA while cheering for its success.
In other words, there are many potential superb "candidates" (admittedly I have no idea whether any would have any interest in turning the Titanic around) to succeed Silverman and who, if retained, could "hit the ground running." And, beyond my very short list, I have to believe there are many others any one of whom...any one of whom...could embrace this position in the tradition of the merged organization and break the current organizational gloom.
Then again, effecting change would require some heavy lifting by Richard Sandler and as good a man and leader as he may be, I'm not sure he's interested.